In the summer of 1978, Bill Murray played baseball for the Greys Harbor Loggers in Washington State. It was a dream of his. He didn’t get to play the whole summer because in August he went off to film Meatballs but he did play in several series. That year the team won their one and only championship.
Today Murray is part owner of the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team of St. Paul, Minnesota. His role is listed on their website as “Team Psychologist” and his duties include morale boosting and train spotting. He has been involved in the team since opening night 1993 when he was stationed at the entrance taking tickets and threw out the first pitch. He is kind of an urban legend. Everybody is sure they will see Bill Murray at the game.
Back in the 1800s the area now known as St. Paul was called Pig’s Eye Landing after French Canadian fur trader and bootlegger Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant’s popular tavern. The Minnesota territory was formed in 1849 and the soldiers at Fort Snelling evicted Pig’s Eye. Father Lucien Galtier, a French priest, renamed the settlement St Paul after Paul the Apostle.
The St Paul Saints have a mascot that honors Pig’s Eye. It is a live trained pig that takes balls to the umpire between innings and is named via a fan contest every year. Last year’s pig was Stephen Colboar. Each year they start out with a new piglet weighing in at about 20 pounds and by the end of the season the pig goes into retirement at over 200 pounds. They also have a bright pink two-legged mascot called Mudonna T Pig along with several other ‘entertainers.’
This year the Saints move to their new stadium in the Lowertown area of St Paul. Lowertown is on the National Register of Historic places and is designated a St Paul Heritage Preservation District. It is right on the Mississippi River and in the 1800’s the area was an integral part of warehousing and distributing goods to the entire upper Midwest region.
Today the warehouses and historic buildings have been converted into artist lofts, apartment buildings and restaurants. The area supports a thriving local artist community and a busy farmer’s market. Local artists will show their art in the new stadium and the games will be scheduled so they don’t conflict with the farmers’ market right next door. The new light rail public transportation stops a block from the stadium. The new stadium is barely visible from the street because the entire seating area is below street level so it does not dominate the area but blends right in.
People who live in the neighborhood were invited to go have a tour so I went. The stadium was built to AA standards but is much smaller than the Twins stadium across town. It is intimate and I couldn’t see a bad seat in the place. There are plenty of bathrooms which is a welcome change compared to the old stadium. The guide assured us the food will be excellent and local breweries will be selling their beer. The team’s locker room is comfortable and spacious. The guide took us down to the field so we could see the dugout and the small concrete area for the pig. She also pointed out Bill Murray’s yellow spray painted signature just behind home base. She said he was such a perfectionist he wanted to do it over but they wouldn’t let him.
It is one of the greenest stadiums in the country with solar panels and mechanisms to capture and reuse rainwater. Because of the recycled water, the city of St Paul insists they put up signs in the bathrooms saying ‘Do not drink from the toilet’.
The stadium was built on the site of the old Gillette factory. The foundation and several walls from that building are being reused in the current structure. The guide said about half of the materials used to build the stadium were either salvaged or recycled.
I am looking forward to seeing a game and joining in the crazy fun that makes a Saints game unique. I already have my tickets and I know I will be looking for Bill Murray.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.